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Cruise checklist

As the economy continues to struggle, one part of the travel industry seems to soldier on quite well, and that is the cruise business. Perhaps one of the greatest assets cruising has for many people is paying a single price for transportation, lodging, meals, and entertainment. With cruise prices as low as $100/day for mega-ships to common destinations, it’s little surprise that cruising remains popular for those in the Chicago area, as well as around the country.

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What type of experience will first time travelers have? What are the essential points to remember about cruising? While a first cruise may not be the “Love Boat,” it is, for many, the dream of a lifetime. To get the maximum enjoyment from your aquatic experience, it’s good to check these items off your list before boarding.

Paperwork
There's always that nasty old paperwork that goes with any vacation. Have you got your passport, visas (if needed), airline tickets, car rental agreement, travel insurance? Have you left a copy of your credit card, passport, and traveler’s check numbers at home with a close relative or friend? Nothing mars a cruise vacation like a lost passport or credit card! Having easy access to these numbers (via phone or email to a loved one back home) can save you precious time on your vacation.

Prescriptions
Do you have adequate supplies of prescriptions, over-the-counter drugs (like aspirin), sun block (and after-sun aloe soother), and toiletries? Most of these can be picked up en route during your cruise, but who wants to pay inflated prices or waste time finding shampoo when you could be shopping for souvenirs? For queasy travelers (those who experience motion sickness), head straight to the cruise doctor’s office once on board to secure the best preventative measures.


Pre- and Post-Cruise Arrangements

Nothing’s better than having a calm approach and landing. When you book local hotels before and after your cruise, you eliminate the stress of connections and time crunching. Enjoy a day or two in your departure city. Soak up the sun a few days post-cruise before flying home. Not only will you extend your vacation, you’ll reduce travel stress.

Packing
Cruises afford the luxury of eliminating a lot of baggage shuffling. Once you get into your cabin, there’s only the task of unpacking and repacking for the journey home. This doesn’t mean you should over-pack. Like most travelers, you are sure to add plenty of souvenirs to your haul home, and you’ve still got to manage those suitcases on the plane. Don’t over-anticipate how much free time you’ll have. Cruises are great at offering plenty of activities day and night, so you don’t really need all those books to read while sunning yourself on deck. Chances are, you won't even finish a single one, with all the shore excursions and onboard activities lined up for you.

In short, planning a cruise vacation isn’t any more exacting than a normal vacation. Remember that many who cruise have gone before you and come back with the sunburns, exhaustion, and wonderful travel stories to prove it. Bon Voyage!

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